Thursday, February 03, 2011

If any man know of any just cause...

Well, The Schwarz was effective - in all the wrong way.

First up, and most unhappily, it didn't make me want to build a workbench any more than I did before. i.e. Not at all. I'm just not convinced that your "Roubo" didn't go out of fashion for darn good reasons. The not-really-Nicholson just screams "You will curse that apron each and every time you have to fumble beneath it to pop up a bench dog". The wide-spread Continental/European workbench design didn't take off for nothing, I'm convinced. It's not easy to build, and frankly if the factories wanted a material-cheap, easy to build and transport bench, the Nicholson variety would have been a better choice.

In short, I like my hopeless Euro bench with its thicker sides and mere 2" central section. I like its tail vice (that doesn't sag). I like its dog holes handy to the front edge. I like its sturdy beech construction. I like its knock-down design and its sled feet that won't wick up moisture from the concrete floor like end grain will.

But like every other bench ever made, (and why there is no perfect bench, and why Chris is, in my opinion, doomed to make benches for the rest of his life - or until he comes to his senses) my Schwarz-unfriendly bench has flaws. It does, it's true, totally suck at holding boards on edge. And the face vice has been annoying me for ages, because the end cap has shrunk towards the back, so the left corner of the rear jaw is fractionally out of line. It's a small thing, but you'd be amazed how irritating it can be.

So I'm going to give the behemoth a refurb. I'm going to make it a board jack, if I can work out how to get a rail for it far enough out. If not, even some holes along the front will at least be something.

And I'm going to replace the front vice.

Yes, you know where I'm going with this. But look, the darn thing will be smaller than the existing front vice. See?

You've still got time to talk me out of this, but I took the existing front vice mechanism off. Just to have a look...

Okay, so a couple of dog holes are going to die horribly, but on the other hand look how the lovely people at E C Emmerich have practically done half the work already. The only annoying bit is having to break into the tool tray (I didn't mention how I like my tool tray too, did I...?). But I have some beech knocking about, and I'm sure I can fill in with the necessary to tidy up.

So there we are, that's how it's looking at the moment. Like I say, I haven't done anything terminal yet, so by all means fill up the comments box with impassioned argument as to why this is a Bad Idea. But for those readers who want to see me suffering in the making of a bench, bear one thing in mind.

If I do this, and screw it up - which, let's face it, is not beyond the bounds of possibility - I could well end up building a bench anyway...


  1. I reckon there's an easy way to improve your bench for holding boards on edge. Get yourself a nice chunk of 3x2 and grip it in the end vice, standing vertically, resting on the floor, top level with the bench surface. You can drill holes in it into which you can put a holdfast, or just a peg, or you can just use a big g-clamp to hold your board against it (with the other end held in the existing vice of course, or the Emmert if you must). But really, you don't have to do a whole lot of bench building before you can start on a real project. Sorry!

  2. and why there is no perfect bench, and why Chris is, in my opinion, doomed to make benches for the rest of his life - or until he comes to his senses

    "The struggle enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus (Greek for Schwartz)happy." - Camus (mid-20th century French woodworker)

  3. YAY!!!

    Stephen Ruddock

  4. I've been following Schwarz' blog for some time and I think his point is to build the workbench that suits you, the way you work and the type of work you do. I just hope you don't regret altering a perfectly good bench...

    Imagine what Schwarz's bench would look like now if he just kept altering the first one he owned.

  5. It might be corny, but benches are like relationships: you adapt or be miserable.

    You're right about the bench dogs on the English bench, but I adapted. I don't push them flush when I'm done using them. I take them out and put them on the shelf below. Adaptation

    Someone mentioned to me I'd regret fuming my bench to such a dark color--not easy to sight down the sole of the plane to adjust the blade. I adapted. I set my plane on a white index card as I sight the sole. Charlesworth does this even on a maple bench.

    In my opinion adaptation is the only way a woodworker will be truly happy with his/her bench.

  6. I've been watching your vacillation with interest. As you saw, I did fall for The Schwartz's Roubo machinations, but then I was totally benchless. I agree with your Nicholson comments - I had the same thoughts when I read it as well!

    I think putting your lump of cast iron on the Emmerich is a good move. Simpler (faster) than a new bench build. And learn how best to fit the vice, and then how best to use it, so that if/when you do build a new bench later you've got the recipe sorted.

    My only worry is; will you lose having the front of the rear jaw flush with the front edge of the bench? That was a revelation for me and I've found it so useful.

    Good luck


  7. No, I would not do it that way. I think that an Emmert vise is not made to be mounted flush, as I expect the base jaw to be rotated, and this is only possible by making large cut outs in the workbench, probably an extra inch or more for free space.
    An alternative is to install a twin screw vise. And to mount the Emmert vise on an extra jaw for the vise, with its own twin screws, making it removable, and minimizing the impact.
    But I would just build a small dedicated table for the Emmert. It can be square as long at it is stable and maybe weighted down. When used the Woodrat needs to be used in front of the table

  8. Keep it coming, folks. I see a follow-up blog post in the near future.

    But just to get started, the Emmert will be mounted flush - or not at all. So don't let that sway anyone.

  9. Good decision, Alf. If you are generally happy with your bench and can deal with the irritations by fitting a different front vice, then that is clearly the way to go.

    But be careful lifting the top off and on. I've had to remove the top of mine recently for similar modifications and it's definitely a two-person job.

    Don't know why they fit breadboard ends to commercial benches - they are unnecessary and always cause problems.

    Cheers ;-)

    Paul Chapman

  10. Board jack you say?


  11. First off, the bench you have, is of course perfectly OK and usable. secondly, You could retro fit the vice and be perfectly happy with your newly adapted bench.
    But you haven't been through a bench build yet, and as such you cannot claim to be a grown up woodworker until you have. You really need to have blood, sweat, and tears in a bench build. The fittings need to be a struggle, the laminated top needs.."NEEDS" to be an absolute piggy to glue up, oh and while we are at it, make sure you make it an inch short too. I made mine when I was sixteen, and I really did struggle with it. But that struggle was so worth it in the end(my boss gave me the bench when I left). I think you should make a new bench purely to go though that same right of passage struggle. I love a workbench build, and when complete it always feels like a new ship has been launched.

  12. Alf...just my two cents...but I would think hard about putting the Tucker on youre bench.
    Just from following your likes and how you build I think an Emmert style is not a good fit.
    A well working twin screw with some nnice space between screws would seem a better fit.

    I have a Emmert style on my first bench I still use and the other drawback is the matter how careful I am be it saw or edge tool I ding it.
    I can see how for a patternmaker it is a great tool. To be aboe to firmly hold a piece while rotating and filing and carving. But for "flat-work" it seems to miss the mark.

    But then again, I am still struggling putting my wooden twin screw face vice together!!! :-)



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